SQLRally, Pre-Cons, and Taking Risks

Before I get into my thoughts, go vote! Here are the options this year for the SQLRally pre-cons:

Here is the voting link. Voting closes 8 am PST on November 2nd, 2010.

For those of you not following along already a “pre-con” is the term we typically use for a one day seminar before an event. In the case of the PASS Summit we might have a dozen or more (some after the Summit, “post-con”), and for SQLRally we’ll have four.

So how are we doing so far?

I love seeing the blog posts and the twitter comments about people voting and speakers plugging their seminars. Good to have that free flowing discussion. We worried that it would be a popularity contest of sorts (which isn’t necessarily wrong), but based on the voting so far (which we aren’t sharing to try to preclude gaming), it’s a combination of content plus marketing that seems to be driving votes. That’s me reading the tea leaves of course!

Pre-con’s need to be marketed, and marketed often (and preferably well). “Vote for me” is a start, but why vote for you? Show me why I need to learn the material and why I should pick you to teach it to me. Do you have experience? Credentials? Passion for the topic? Have you been paying your dues in our community and earned the chance to step up? What we’re trying to do here is put more of the marketing work on the speakers. It’s not enough to just submit an idea, you have to help us get people to want to attend, and that starts with convincing enough people that you’ve got the best content out of the three options on your track!

We haven’t done as well as I would have liked on communication. Some of that is honest mistakes, some of it is limited resources in the time when we’re in final prep mode for the 2010 Summit, some of it is mistakes that we didn’t realize were mistakes! We’re trying to catch up, and hopefully post-Summit things will smooth out. Please continue to let us know when we miss something or could do something better, we need to know and we’ll do what we can to fix things.

At the same time, I hope you’ll temper any frustration with the knowledge that we’re deliberately taking some risks – new event format, new team running the event, new process for selecting pre-cons, and more. None of them individually are big risks, collectively though we’ve got a lot going on. That’s deliberate, and a tough call. If we try to do too much and we fail (or don’t do it cleanly), one could argue that we should have tried to do less. The key for me is that while some of the challenges we encounter might have been avoided, we’re trying to take risks where we can learn something and/or gain a nice advantage.

Go vote!